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Analysis

Separated at Draft: Asami Sato and Kate Kane

Griffin

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When The Legend of Korra first aired, I was far from the first person to make the connection that Asami’s history was more than a little similar to that of Bruce Wayne’s. Traumatic murder of a parent at a young age. Part of an absurdly wealthy family to the point that she’s more or less Republic City royalty. Genius intellect, lives in a giant mansion with a butler, highly trained in martial arts, and uses the coolest gadgets. Then Book 4 rolls around, and we find out that Future Industries not only rebuilt Republic City, but modernized it too.

Sounds like Bruce Wayne to me! “Asami is Batman!” we said. And yeah, that was a pretty fun idea. But then the series finale dropped, and it all just clicked. Asami Sato isn’t Batman. She never was. Asami Sato is Kate Kane. The Batwoman.

To say that I have strong feelings about these two characters is quite the understatement, but beyond that I’m able to remain unbiased for this piece since the similarities just kept growing. Also because I love them both so much. The connection between Kate—who is also Gotham royalty etc—and Asami had always been there, but during James Tynion IV’s debut Detective Comics Rebirth arc it nearly grew into a one-to-one comparison.

Clearly, I have some sort of “type” in favorite fictional characters. Seriously, there are even meta-textual similarities between these two women that goes all the way up to the company producing the content in the first place.

It’s crazy. Also, MAJOR SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING.

 

The most difficult part is deciding where to even start. Part of me wants to tell you the story of both of them until they deviate, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to do this. There’s just so much to unpack that we’d have to backtrack quite a bit regardless of the method. So, I guess I’ll work from the top down. From development to “where they are now”, as it were.

…right after we get the single most glaring one out of the way:

Neither are straight. Kate Kane is a lesbian. Asami Sato is bisexual.

Not Pictured: Kate Kane’s happy ending/wedding, or those other two dorks kissing. YET.

A Tale of Two Pre-Productions

It’s a relatively well known fact for Legend of Korra fans that Asami was originally conceived as a tall, green eyed femme fatale. An equalist spy who dates Mako to get close to Korra and betray them. But, during the planning phases of Book 1, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the Executive Producers/Creators of both Korra and the original Avatar series, decided that they liked her so much they made her one of the heroes instead. This, of course, lead to a rather interesting development:

Asami’s character design was left unchanged, along with the first half of her plot beats throughout the course of Book 1. She still hits Mako with her moped, still asks him out, gets him to meet her dad, sponsors his team, etc. The biggest twist was that there wasn’t a twist. Asami is just that compassionate.

 

Now, Kate’s case is a bit more murky. Her original design is most likely not the one you’ve seen, if you’ve seen her at all. The modern Kate Kane—not the Silver Age created-out-of-gay-panic Kathy Kane who got married to Batman, hysterically enough—was first introduced in 2006’s 52 #7 as a scorned ex-lover to Renee Montoya’s larger noir detective story. Her character design evokes the same femme fatale tropes (plus she’s also tall with green eyes) that Asami’s does, though with a reversed color scheme.

Of course, she’s not actually a femme fatale either. She only looks like one.

Her batsuit used to have high heels, too. Everyone hated it.

However, it doesn’t end there. While Asami’s character itself was altered—as was Kate’s, though this was far more logical retcon—Kate’s design was completely overhauled over the next few years to have her better represent the kind of person she needed to be. Not just a standard run-of-the-mill “lipstick lesbian” in her outward appearance, but someone who gave the middle finger to typical gender roles, embodying a rather fluid mix of traditionally masculine and feminine traits to better reflect her personality.

And the end result:

In the 40s/50s, lesbians got that naval star tattooed on their inner wrists as a way to signal others without being outed.

Sounds like Asami, doesn’t it?

DC/Dark Horse Secret Origins Special #1

Curiously, the proverbial heart of Kate’s origin story—and her entire foundation as a character—isn’t relevant to this piece in the way you would think. Being dishonorably discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) just before her final semester at West Point was what forced her to become Batwoman, rather than what many assume the reason to be: being present for her mother and sister’s murder on her twelfth birthday.

It’s tangentially related to the sequence of events that lead Kate to become a vigilante, but all it really did, narratively, was push her to become more like her father and follow the Kane family tradition of military service. Which is something she would have done anyway, and she’d still be a lesbian, so she’d still be Batwoman.

Just like how Asami would still have idolized her father, wanting to follow in his footsteps and keep the family business of engineering brilliance going, even if her mother had never been murdered during the robbery. The fact that they both belong to an oppressed and often disenfranchised people would still ring true as well. Kate’s been Jewish since the day she was born, just as Asami has always been a non-bender.

Both women proved themselves prodigies in their chosen field, as their fathers’ had decades prior. Hiroshi Sato was once considered the world’s most brilliant industrialist, and Colonel Jacob Kane has a record of military service that can only be described as extremely classified.

I hear South Misunderstandistan is wonderful this time of year.

Kate was the top of her class at West Point, rising to the rank of Cadet Captain over her entire battalion. Asami grew to become some kind of MacGyver-wunderkind who redesigns an entire city’s infrastructure (transit, water, electricity, zoning, etc), can build whatever they may need at the moment out junk, and explicitly understands how everything works. And also how to make it explode.

As a direct result of the murder of Gabrielle Kane and Yasuko Sato, Kate and Asami have extensive mastery in a variety of weapons, martial arts and acrobatics.

Though Kate’s training is admittedly far more comprehensive, which makes sense considering her role. Think a Green Beret multiplied by a Navy SEAL and then concentrated through the mentality of a “one-man-army”.

So…y’know. Batman.

Additionally, their mentality towards combat is rather similar. Asami goes for the most direct route to disabling an opponent, as she was most likely instructed in how to fight benders more than anything else. They’re her biggest threat, and her dad was an Equalist. She can’t attack at range, but they can. It comes down to closing the gap and taking them down as fast as possible. If she didn’t have the glove, it’s heavily implied that she’d be breaking a lot of bones.

Kate is in pretty much the same boat. Except she does break those bones. She’s got a welcome aversion to She-Fu and exploits her environment in ways that are so damn obvious Batman just wouldn’t consider it. Smothered alive by giant demon centipedes with Wonder Woman in a pitch black cave? Well. They’re bugs. So she starts splatting them. Because they’re bugs. Duh doi.

Need to take down the guy who once broke Batman’s spine? Rock. No, really. She bashed Bane’s face with a rock.

They’re both considered by the media to be “daddy’s little girl” and a Rich Idiot With No Day Job, when anyone who meets them for more than fifteen seconds immediately realizes just how wrong that is. The first part, at least.

Initially, Asami didn’t have a job (supposedly), and while it’s implied that Kate does contribute quite a bit to the community of Gotham City, since in order to be a socialite and relevant you actually need to do things, the specifics there have never been clear. But, neither of them could ever be described as “daddy’s little girl” aside from when they quite literally were.

The Part Where It Gets Seriously Weird

Before we got to the bigger bombshell (pun entirely intended!) moments, and why Kate and Asami have a near-identical moral compass, there’s a bunch of these not-so-little side-connections that I can’t leave out. They’re just so specific and yet, they exist in both of these women’s lives. Like how Kate and Asami met a romantic partner, who would eventually become a detective and teammate, during an automobile incident.

Notice I did not say accident.

This would be about 10x as funny if Mako was a cop at the time.

Or how they both met the loves of their lives at a fancy city gala held in honor for that very person?

Okay, it was the GCPD Charity Ball, but it still counts!

Or how, due to a variety of factors—bad writing, executive meddling, forcible change in creative team/animation studio; take your pick—they spent an extended period of time acting so absurdly out of character and moronic, along with everyone else in the story, that you really weren’t sure why you were even watching/reading this anymore?

I almost did, Asami. Almost.

….or that they’re both the little spoon…

…or that they forged a strong connection with an actual demigod by saving the world together…

Also tasers gloves.

Or how both of their dads serve as primary antagonists and oversee operations on a major metropolitan area from the bridge of an airship—right that’s the bombshell!

Sins of their Fathers

This is where it all comes together. See, for quite some time Jacob Kane’s major misstep with his daughter was not telling her that they never found Beth’s body the day she was murdered. That Kate’s twin sister could be alive out there somewhere, despite the fact that he spent the better part of a decade trying to find her and came up with nothing.

It’s a very dangerous situation, since it would be cruel to get Kate’s hopes up with no evidence, but at the same time she does deserve the truth. And maybe he’d have told her, someday, long after he’d accepted that there was no chance in hell he’d ever find her body.

Except he didn’t get that chance, because Beth returned to Gotham City as Alice, an insane supervillain who only spoke in verses lifted from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and thought herself the title character. She attempted to drown Gotham in cyanogen chloride, which is basically cyanide. She also happened to be the new leader of the same cult that once stabbed Kate through the heart, believing her to be the chosen sacrifice—look, just go read 52 and Elegy if you want that story.

Point is, Jacob lied, and Kate discovered that the madwoman she’d been fighting was her twin sister all along…just before she fell to her supposed death.

This is emotionally devastating in the original arc (this is a retelling of it for new readers, so it’s more apropo here) because before this moment, you didn’t even know she had a sister.

Right, so until recently, this was the biggest schism between Kate and her father Jacob, and it’s where this article would, originally, have started to wrap itself up. But, just as Jacob and Kate were beginning to mend things between them, the other secret popped out. The one about him being the leader and mastermind behind an elite paramilitary organization with technology far ahead of its time operating under the singular goal of ensuring that what happened to his family would never happen again.

Now, doesn’t that sound awfully familiar?

This is why you don’t have a secret base with windows, Tim. Seriously…

Just as Asami unwittingly led her friends and allies into a trap within her own home, so too did Kate by trusting her father. She brought him into the Belfry (think the Batcave, but in the center of Gotham and way more bleeding edge) as an expert on the new threat they were facing, dubbed The Colony, as they operated like an elite military unit. Turns out, he’s the one in charge, and knew she’d do this after his soldiers successfully captured Batman.

Both fathers try to get their daughters to join the cause, now that they know the truth. Kate and Asami are forced to make a choice between siding with what little family they have left and what they know to be morally right. And they do make the same choice, but with Kate it’s not that simple, partly because of what the Colony actually is.

The Colony is a sanctioned branch of the U.S. Army tasked explicitly with combating the worst evils that threaten the country by any means necessary. Jacob Kane did not create the Colony, nor did he co-opt it. His government tasked him with a mission, which just so happened to coincide with his own greater goal. Even when they do go rogue, it wasn’t for any selfish need on Jacob’s part. He doesn’t even get to escape with them, but they still carry on.

Compare and Contrast!

The Equalists are straight-up violent revolutionaries who effectively aim to commit genocide. They take over an entire city with the intention to keep expanding their reach until bending is wiped off the face of the planet. Now, that is impossible, but the Equalists still kill God knows how many people to accomplish their goal, and manage to destroy an entire naval fleet. They systematically eliminate any possible form of resistance; the police force, the council, and all benders within the city limits. There’s no real nuance here.

They thrive on rage and prejudice. Everything is personal.

It’s important to understand that Jacob Kane is not Hiroshi Sato, just as the Colony cannot be equated to the Equalists.

Jacob’s grief didn’t manifest itself into anything besides grief. While his methods in this arc are arguably beyond acceptable losses—killing hundreds of Americans to save hundreds of thousands—he’s not doing this for himself.

Hiroshi lost himself in his mourning and lust for revenge, turning the love he had for his wife into a delusion of righteousness. And this disparity is explicitly reflected in how the rest of this plays out for the both of them.

 

Family Ties

None of this makes Asami’s decision easier; it just makes Kate’s harder since there is so much more going on here. Jacob isn’t even a villain. He’s just the antagonist. A Well-Intentioned Extremist. Barely.

I did a photoset of all the times people have asked Kate to serve. Most of it was extremely manipulative. This was not one of those times.

You need to understand. Kate has dreamt of something like this ever since her dishonorable discharge. All she’d ever wanted to do was serve. It was the only thing that gave her purpose. So when she relinquished it to uphold her integrity—she could have lied to her commanding officer about being gay, but didn’t—she fell into a downward spiral. And it wasn’t pretty.

Eventually, she “ran into” her cousin Bruce (yup, look it up) as Batman outside of a bar, after having defended herself from a mugger. He helps her up to her feet, and vanishes into the night…but not before planting that idea in her head.

Not just the easy one, that it could be anyone under that mask. But that the batsignal isn’t just a warning, or a call for help. It was also a call to arms. She starts operating as a vigilante, her father finds out, and instead of shutting her down, he supports her. Realizes that she’s not wrong in that this is the only real way she can still serve. He calls in his old unit to train her. And they put her through hell and back, over and over again until she was finally ready.

Why did he keep the wig?!

So, here’s her father, revealing to her once again that he’d been lying, and in a reality where Beth had never returned, or Kate had never discovered what he hid from her…she’d have said yes. She’d have said yes because this isn’t a costume for her. It’s a uniform, and her father is offering a real one. Quite possibly a better one, too. It’s everything she could have ever wanted in a position like this. You can see the temptation as she rolls it around in her head, despite feeling betrayed all over again.

But, because of what happened with Beth, she fights him. After all, it’s not like she can trust a single damn word that comes out of his mouth anymore. It’s more than that, though, and I’m trying not to spend too much time on Kate, but the fact of the matter here is that there’s even deeper reasoning for why she doesn’t side with her father.

It’s not entirely that she doesn’t trust him, or even that he’s killing people. She always knew that her father did some really shady stuff for the government, but never the specifics. Rather, it’s that he just can’t see what he’d be taking away from her.

Kate has served two flags. Two ideals that she tried to make her own. The Stars and Stripes, and the Bat. That is to say, she has never worked under Batman; she has never followed him personally. Greg Rucka said it best in a 2009 interview with Newsarama where he explained that it’s “…the difference between following an individual into battle or following a flag – a symbol. In the latter, you’re taking up that flag yourself as your own.” But the military, her father’s military, didn’t want “people like her” serving the country, so she found the Bat instead.

I like the buzz cut, but her uniform looks infinitely better with the classic bob.

She has worked alongside the other vigilantes of Gotham for years—in current continuity it’s around seven; trust me I did the math—and not once, not one single time have they ever told her to stop. They have never told her “No.” They have never taken her for granted. They have never abandoned her for who she is. They all understand that they’re on the same side, fighting essentially the same fight, with the same mission. It doesn’t matter where any of them come from, as long as they do their jobs.

It’s what she thought serving in the military would be, in a sense. It’s a form of unity and acceptance that parallels Asami’s experience with the “new Team Avatar”. She’s not a bender, but that’s not important to them. She can still help by being herself, and they want her to help. They want her there. Hell, they need her there.

So, for Kate, joining her father isn’t just putting aside all of the lies and manipulation—even if his only goal was to give her a better life, which he already succeeded in—it would also be abandoning the duty she defined for herself.

No matter how great the cause he’s pitching, she can’t toss people to the curb like the Army did to her. Same as how Asami can’t dedicate her life to hurting others since she knows exactly how much pain that brings. Even still, Jacob, much like Hiroshi, tries to make amends before all is said and done. It doesn’t work.

Is that TIM DRAKE in the background? Doing Red Robin things?! GASP

AsamihiroshiThen, once it becomes overwhelmingly clear that Kate and Asami won’t follow them, they stop trying to convince them.

There’s no point to it anymore, even though their daughters continue to oppose them with everything they’ve got.

Thing is, Jacob never retaliates. He never fights back. He never strikes Kate, no matter how hard she hits him. There’s even a moment where she puts herself in the direct line of fire between him and his goal.

But, unlike Hiroshi, Jacob orders everyone to move on to the next target, because her life is still the most important.

As long as she’s safe, it doesn’t matter if she hates him.

Justified. So, so justified, no matter how painful it is to watch.

Hiroshi, though…Hiroshi tries to kill his own daughter. He corners her in a hangar, and attempts to violently crush her to death with a mecha-tank. Because she has betrayed him, of course. Nothing she could do or say could convince him otherwise. That she hadn’t been “turned” by those disgusting benders. She’s dead to him. There’s no hesitation. It’s just murder.

In the end, they’re both taken down by their daughters. They’re both brought to justice, even if the larger problem—whether it be the omnipresent League of Shadows who might not even exist or non-bender oppression—isn’t solved by arresting them. Hiroshi attempts to run after Asami refuses to kill him. Jacob tries to use a teleporting airship.

One Liner game is A+ as always, Kate.

Neither are successful.

Asami and Kate: Sisters in Suffering

What more is there really to say that I haven’t already? Aside from the fact that Jacob’s alive and Hiroshi’s dead, this is where the story ends. For now. While Asami will never get the chance to mend her relationship with her father, despite trying to in what little time they had left, it’s not out of the cards for Kate. Not entirely, at least. It’ll be hard. Harder than the first time, but if she wants to get there, they’ll make it work.

(Spoilers from the future: They did! Mostly.)

Plus, it’d be super awkward during the high holidays if Kate and Jacob just hated each other from across the table. Which inevitably puts Beth in the middle. Who isn’t dead, by the way. Anymore. She died from the fall, but the cult that believed her a prophet brought her back to life. And then she saved her sister from that vampire I mentioned waaaaaaaaaaaaaay at the top of the page with that link referencing controversial narrative choices. So I guess the moral of the story is…

Don’t lie to your kids about terrorists, dead siblings and conspiracies? Yeah, that sounds about right.


All images courtesy of DC Comics and Viacom. Gifs made by Kylie.

Griffin is an Entertainment Writer operating out of the Chicago area. He likes puzzles, deconstructing other puzzles, and talk show branded ice cream flavors.

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Asami Sato Intensifies - The FandomentalsBatwoman is a Triumph Built Upon the Failures of Kate Kane - The FandomentalsDetective Comics Unleashes The League Of Shadows - The FandomentalsBreaking Ranks and the Cycle of Violence – The RaconteurBatwoman Begins Is Half Of A Fantastic Puzzle - The Fandomentals Recent comment authors
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[…] is an absolute legal nightmare no amount of money can solve. I covered the true depth of this in my Separated at Draft piece, regarding how Asami Sato from The Legend of Korra and Kate were basically the same […]

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[…] say that this desire is problematic is a vast understatement. Especially since Kylie and I have already proven extensively that, by the transitive property, Lena Luthor is Kate Kane. (Well, based on the article […]

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[…] such a strong sense of déjà vu. True, it’s a bit in-vogue over here to claim that Asami is practically the same character as someone else (she’s also Sansa!), to the point where Griffin and I are wondering if there should be a trope […]

trackback

[…] remarkable thing? Much like there are Asami Satos springing up on every street corner these days, there are tons of Dutiful Princesses in media. Once you get […]

trackback

[…] course, being the absolutely massive Batwoman fan that I am, I’m sure some of you are wondering if I’m […]

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[…] from different fandoms might as well be the same, we call that ‘separated at draft.’ Like Asami Sato and Kate Kane.  They’re like twins (or triplets) separated at the drafting board instead of at […]

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[…] just because it sounded like an awesome story setup, but also because it…well, frankly, it validated Jacob’s attempted actions during Rise of the Batmen. It’s interesting, really. So many people thought he was crazy, or that he’d gone too […]

trackback

[…] despite that not actually discouraging Bette at all—she finally found something to fight for. The family name. And also honor and all that jazz, which sounds super familiar, for some […]

trackback

[…] an increasing number of characters. Kate Kane’s run in the Detective Comics Rebirth featured her making strikingly similar decisions when confronted with a strikingly similar choice as Asami had in Korra’s first season, Sansa […]

Analysis

Image Comics “DIE” is an Instant Dark Fantasy Masterpiece

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There are so many factors that have come into play when I first heard about Image comics newest release, DIE, that it is hard to pinpoint the real reason it intrigued me so heavily. Who am I kidding, it was all the reasons. Most importantly the staff on it.

For one, it features two of my favorite Image Comics alum. The first being Kieron Gillen, the mastermind that gave us the brilliant comic The Wicked And The Divine,which is one of the best ongoing comics at the moment. On the art work is the incredibly talented Stephanie Hans whose realistic and beautifully shaded and colored panels were also featured in The Wicked And The Divine‘s 1831 one shot as well across other comic distributors such as DC with Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. The two coming together again like in 1831 is a match that builds this comic up to be really something special.

Image, in the last few years has really been producing some special and important books in the past few years, among them being The Wicked and the Divine, some of the more acclaimed include Saga, Blackbird, Paper Girls,and Infidel, the company takes a proud departure from Superheroes that dominate the comic industry and opt for more fantasy or science fiction stories with adult and political themes.

Lastly, the plot was incredibly unique and original. When it was advertised as Jumanji meets It, I was instantly interested. While not being a player of table top games myself, I can certainly see the crowd this book is trying to reach while also showing the fun about these games with an added horror twist that is sure to be remembered after the first issue.

The story really does follow a similar timeline to the mentioned Stephen King novel since it follows a group of friends during two periods of their lives: as teenagers and as adults. As we are introduced to each member of the group, we notice nothing in particularly strange about their characters, other than a shared love for table top games and science fiction and fantasy themes. The group has gathered together to celebrate the birthday of their friend Dominic by playing an apparently hard to find game called Gormenghast.

We learn a little about each character based on their choice of created characters. Dominic himself creates a diplomat woman that’s apparently a cross between Cleopatra and Machiavelli, the Dictator. Matthew, a magical warrior of empathy, the Grief Knight. Angela, a cyber punk, Neo. Isabelle, an atheist with gods as pets, Godbinder. Chuck, a lazily created every-man. And Sol the dungeon master with D20 die.

As the game begins the comic cuts to two hours later as Sol’s mum comes to check on them and they have disappeared. Fast forward again and it’s two years later and the group suddenly appears on a random road nearly getting hit by a car. Angela is missing her arm and we can’t really make out what happened, they are now only known as the Stafford six a group of teenagers who went missing two years ago. Sol is the only one missing from the group.

The comic again goes in time to 25 years later where we get to see how this tragedy has affected the rest of their lives. Apparently they had all made a promise never to speak about what happened, not even to one another. Sol’s mother even after so many years pesters Dominic about the fate of her son, to which he avoids. Using brilliant dialogue we see just how dark this has made their lives. Dom seems not to keep in touch with all the others except his sister who has gone through a string of divorces. They have made the best of living with their memories but it is all destroyed when Dom receives a package at a bar, a bloodied D20 die.

It’s at this moment that he decides to reunite the group. After so much time, some have changed completely while others not at all…I’m looking at you Chuck. While some have new companions and some less. They decide as a group to finally discuss what happened that night and where they were for two years until the die calls out to them. The Grandmaster threatens the realm and a hero is needed it calls as they are all sucked into the die and land into a desert ruin. It’s apparent that they have all become their characters…why does Chuck look like Varric.

With the end of the issue the group bickers among themselves about being back in the game, something they’ve repressed for nearly half their lives until Sol appears as the new Grandmaster. What I took from his dialogue is that he was trapped by the previous one and during these long years he’s fought a war to survive or escape and eventually defeated him and became the Grandmaster himself. It’s not clear whether he’s sane or not at this point but it points to the latter as he tells his friends that they are not leaving until the game is over.

This first issue was great at establishing its main cast. While I kept most of those details out of this review, the book really fleshes them out individually and gives life to each of their personalities. Anyone who has read The Wicked and the Divine will know just how well Gillen handles diversity among characters as well as conflicting attitudes. They actually feel like a group of friends you might have been a part of in high school. I really loved this book and I can’t wait to see what adventures await us.


Images Courtesy of Image Comics

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Analysis

Conclusion to Stumbling Beginnings in Summer Knight

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It had to happen sometime. I talked last book about how much Butcher had improved on his shaky start. Published in 2002, Summer Knight brings the shaky opening to a conclusion. It also opens up a new phase of storytelling for the series as a whole. In case you couldn’t tell, I really like this book. It brings so much to the series, and features one of the more iconic moments of the series for Murphy. Let’s get into it.

Spoilers for Summer Knight and all previous books in the series.

So, What Happened?

Summer Knight opens with Harry and Billy investigating a rain of toads. Harry grumps around and alienates all his friends because of his grief over Susan. Afterwards, he goes to a meeting Billy orchestrated, which turns out to be with Mab, Queen of the Winter Fae. She bought his debt from the Leanansidhe, and wants him to clear her name for a murder. Harry refuses and goes to the White Council meeting. We meet several other wizards, and a vampire offers peace between the White Council and Red Court if they turn over Harry. At the conclusion of the meeting, the wizards agree not to sacrifice Harry if he makes Mab cooperate with the Wizards.

Harry discovers that the murdered man, Ronald Reuel, was the Summer Knight, the human intermediary for the Summer Court. The power he wielded disappeared, destroying the balance. Which, eventually, leads to war between the Courts. Elaine, shows up as the Summer Emissary. Harry attends Reuels funeral, and runs into several teenage, changeling acquaintances of the knight who are concerned over the disappearance of Lily. He visits the Winter Lady, then contacts Murphy. They fight several monsters in a Wal-Mart. He goes to the Summer Lady after finding Elaine beaten by his car.

Harry visits the Summer and Winter Mothers in the Nevernever. The Winter Mother gives him an Unraveling. Aurora, the Summer Lady steals it from him and reveals she orchestrated everything to remake the seasons in her own image. She trapped the power inside Lily. Harry objects to this. Harry, the Alphas, and two of the teenage changelings go to the Stone Table. They interrupt the fight between seasons, steal back the Unraveling, and kill Aurora, saving Lily, the one holding the mantle. In the conclusion, Lily becomes the new Summer Lady.

Best Moment – The Wal-Mart Fight, Organization to Conclusion

There are so many good things about this scene. There’s finally communication, Murphy’s first moment of awesome, and plot hooks perfectly combined with character catharsis. Over the course of this unlikely placed scene, Butcher manages to bring several elements of the early series to a conclusion.

The first, of course, is that Harry finally tells Murphy everything about the supernatural. She even gets in one last one-liner about being kept out, a start to their banter for the rest of the series. “‘I know I’ve kept things from you.’ … ‘Yeah’, she said, ‘I know. It’s annoying as hell.’”(299). He tells her everything. About the Red Court, the White Council, the Fae, and Chicago Supernatural Politics. Now, we won’t have the cheap conflict from Storm Front where they work at cross-purposes again.

Immediately afterwards, we have the fight with the chlorofiend, the Tigress, and the mind fog. At the conclusion of that fight, we also have Murphy’s first major impact since the Loup-Garou. “Murphy tore through them with the chain saw, … then drove the blade directly between the chlorofiend’s glowing green eyes.” (345). Chainsaw with cold iron, vs Fae Creature. Murphy wins.

The way that the plot interacts shows improvement from the previous book. There, Butcher attempted to tie together the antagonists with the chain spells. Here, we see the ghoul, the summoned monster, and the mind fog from two different people. The Tigress also capitalizes on Murphy’s trauma from the previous book. But everything makes sense, and the conclusion of the fight ties together various plot threads, since Ace sent the Tigress, Aurora the fog and fiend, and Murphy starts to recover from Kravos’s attack.

Most Improved – Harry’s Attitude

While some of the previous books focused more on the change to other people, here we have Harry change. He has a character arc that comes to a satisfying conclusion by the end. Harry starts the book depressed over Susan, and he alienates everyone. Billy points it out. “I don’t need to be a wizard to see when someone’s in a downward spiral. You’re hurting. You need help.” (25). Given that Billy previously espoused the theme of the series, his reintroduction here is significant. Eventually, Harry accepts the help Billy offers, both in scheduling meetings, and with the fight at the end. After the fight, Harry even goes over to hang out with the Alphas, and plays a barbarian in a Dungeons & Dragons spin-off game. He quotes William Shakespeare jokingly, and says, “Meep, Meep” to a deranged Faerie Queen. (489).

It is not only the Alphas that help change Harry’s mood. His reunion with Eileen, his teenage flame, who he thought he killed alongside Justin also helps. Finding out he didn’t kill her brings him closure. But through the book, when she nominally serves as an opponent, the Summer Emissary to his Winter, her presence reassures him. Even when she ‘betrays’ him to Aurora, and binds him, she still helps him. “I’d been right. It was the same binding she’d used when we were kids.” (433). Her meddling enables him to escape Aurora’s death trap, by using their childhood bond.

At the conclusion of the book, she gives him advice regarding Susan that builds to the catharsis detailed above. “Stop thinking about how bad you feel—because if she cares about you at all, it would tear her up to see you like I saw you a few days ago.” (510). That help sends him in a new direction.

Best Worldbuilding – The Fae Courts

While the information on the White Council is delightful, the Fae Court proves more valuable to the main plot. And we learn a lot about the Courts here. Lea makes an appearance, where she ‘helps’ Harry by distracting him and a Fae from fighting and guiding him to the Stone Table. She mentions again how she believes her actions last book only helped him as well. It gives insight to the alien nature of Fae morals.

We also can draw conclusions about the structure of the Courts given all the information on how they organize themselves. Through the book, we learn about the Winter and Summer Courts, each with three Queens. The Mothers, the retired queens. The Queens, the current ruler. And the Ladies, the heir for the future. Their Knights that do their will in the mortal world, and the Emissaries chosen on special occasions.

Also informative is the phrase, “If Winter came here, Summer had to come too, didn’t it?” (219). It implies certain checks and balances on each other’s behavior. That only highlights how serious a problem it is that the Summer Knight is dead, and the mantle gone. Lea’s information about the Stone Table reinforces that. Beyond being a reference to Narnia, it also guarantees great power to whoever holds the table, and whoever sheds blood on it. So, the peaceful transfer of the table from Summer to Winter and back with the seasons preserves their equality. Aurora’s plan only serves to show how important it is to keep that balance, less there be another Ice Age, or worse.

In showing us all this, Butcher expands his universe so much further, and sets the ‘table’ for future stories. Ones that will lead to the eventual conclusion of the series, yet to come.

Worst Worldbuilding – The Conclusion of Meryl’s Story

Given all that we know now about the Fae, it comes as no surprise that the worst worldbuilding also comes from that section of the story. Butcher’s take on Changelings is innovative, being half-human, half-Fae rather than the traditional version. The problems arise from how the narrative treats her, and the results of her half-Fae heritage.

The problem with Meryl is that Meryl dies at the end of the story. She is the first person explicitly allied with Harry to die. The only previous person that was not an antagonist that died was MacFinn, and he attempted to murder them all because of an uncontrollable curse. Meryl dying in and of itself is not the entire problem. Butcher directs the series in a darker direction, so deaths will come eventually. The issue that I have with the conclusion of Meryl’s story is that Butcher could have done so many things with her. As a Changeling aligned with Winter, dearest friend of the new Summer Lady and Knight, the possibility of an inter-Fae alliance or Court would develop.

She even said, “[Winter] Calls,’ Meryl said. ‘ But I’m not answering.’” (459). The Changelings provide a glimpse of the Fae outside of the manipulation, outside of Court politics. Meryl could have been symbolic of that. But no. Meryl Chooses to save Lily. She Chooses and she dies and all that hope with her. It’s a story brought too soon to a conclusion, one that broke off threads that could have continued.

Moment of Regression – Ye Old Wandering Eyes

I will admit, this is a sticking point for me. I talked about my dislike of Harry’s voyeurism in Storm Front. I brought it up again in Fool Moon. Thankfully, it didn’t appear too often in the following books, but here we see this again with a vengeance. And it doesn’t even make sense in character this time.

After a Susan-vampire nightmare, Harry thinks.

“But I had been used to a certain amount of friendly tension relieving with Susan. Her absence had killed that for me, completely—except for rare moments during the damned dreams when my hormones came raging back up to the front of my thoughts again as though making up for lost time.” (176).

So, theoretically at least Harry’s libido takes a break. I understand that part of this nightmare and Harry’s symptoms comes from the dangerous way he’s punishing himself for Susan’s condition. But, still. Even before this dream we have moments where he stares at Mab’s ass. He knows she’s the Winter Queen, and he still ogles her when she leaves. At Maeve’s court, Butcher spends a good deal of time describing Jenny Greenteeth, a Fae seductress. He could have emphasized the alien way she moves, the details that make her decidedly not human, and dropped a one-liner about her being naked at the end. It would have been in character for Harry’s blasé kind of humor. Instead, Butcher flips that script, focusing on the nakedness, with the inhumanity coming as an aside.

Call it my own personal soapbox, if you will, but that doesn’t sit well with me, especially when the last book did so much better with Harry’s gaze. (Not perfect, of course, but better. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to keep improving.)

In Conclusion

Overall, Summer Knight showcases the best of Butcher’s work so far. While the choices were somewhat limited compared to last book, the plot hangs together much better. That cohesive plot lent its voice to each category, and the worst moments were nitpicks and could-have-beens.

The way that Butcher brought this story arc, and Harry’s character arc to a conclusion proved satisfying. His mastery of plot improved, with the motivations of the antagonists and the number being reasonable, instead of overwhelming. The knowledge about the Fae, about the Council, and about Elaine all help set up this next phase of the series. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Am I being too nit-picky in the ‘bad’ categories, or is it just proof of concept that the problems can be reduced to nitpicks? Was the White Council more fascinating than the Fae, or was Harry’s arc disjointed? Let me know if I’m being too harsh on the series, if you had a different idea for a category, or if you have any comments about the arc of the series as a whole. I look forward to hearing from you.


 

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Analysis

Game of Thrones 3×10 Rewatch: Mediocre

Kylie

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We’ve done it! We’ve made it through three seasons of Game of Thrones here with our rewatch project The Wars to Come. And with that, we’ve also made it through the most bearable parts of this series by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D). While last week brought some mixed reviews, it seems that this week, Kylie, Julia, and Katie are leaning more towards jeers and boos in “Myhsa.”

Episode Recap

Picking up from last week’s morbid end, it’s a slaughter outside the Twins as the Frey troops finish off Robb’s forces. Arya, escaping with Sandor, oversees her brother’s body being paraded about—now with Grey Wind’s head on his shoulders. The next morning, Walder Frey chats with Roose Bolton about their improved stations, now that Roose has become the Warden of the North. Roose reveals that his bastard Ramsay was the one who got the Ironborn to surrender Winterfell, and the one keeping Theon hostage now. Arya and the Hound, meanwhile, pass a group of Frey soldiers who brag about aiding in sewing Grey Wind’s head onto Robb’s body. Arya slips off Sandor’s horse and kills one of them, with Sandor killing the other two to protect her.

We check in with Theon and Ramsay, the latter of whom is still torturing the former. Theon asks to be killed, but Ramsay points out he’s not useful to him that way. He decides that Theon’s new name is ‘Reek’.

At some point, Ramsay had sent a box containing Theon’s castrated penis to the Iron Islands, with a letter telling the Ironborn to withdraw from the North. Balon and Yara receive it, and though Balon seems completely indifferent to Theon’s suffering, Yara decides that she will take her best fighters and rescue her brother.

Despite the massacre at The Twins, things seem rather peaceful in King’s Landing for a moment as Sansa jokes around with Tyrion about ways they can prank those who speak poorly of him. However, that is soon dashed when he attends a Small Council meeting where it’s revealed what happened to the Stark forces. Joffrey is gleeful and says he wants to show the corpse of Robb to Sansa, but Tyrion tells him he can’t torment her any more. This leads to an unpleasant confrontation, which Tywin puts an end to by sending Joffrey to bed. As everyone else clears out, he reminds Tyrion that he must impregnate Sansa now that she’s officially the heir to Winterfell. That might prove difficult, since when Tyrion sees her next, it’s clear she heard about her family and is incredibly sad.

Later, Varys tries to bribe Shae to leave Westeros, since he believes Tyrion can help the land and Shae is a distraction to that end. She refuses. Tyrion, for his own part, passes his time by drinking with Pod, until Cersei comes in and tells him that he really should impregnate Sansa, so that she can have some joy in her life, just like Cersei’s children brought her. Much later, Jaime arrives back in the city, and meets a stunned Cersei.

Up at The Wall, Bran and the Reeds take shelter in one of the abandoned Night’s Watch castles. Bran tells them it’s haunted because of the ‘rat cook,’ a man who killed his guests under his own roof and was cursed into the form of a rat. Gilly and Sam turn up at the same castle, and Sam recognizes Bran as Jon’s brother. He gives Bran and the Reeds his dragonglass to help protect them as they set out north of the Wall.

Sam and Gilly make their way back to Castle Black, where Sam makes the case to Maester Aemon that Gilly is worthy of their protection given their vows extend to the “realms of men.” Gilly names her baby after Sam, and Aemon, after learning what they had seen, commands Sam to send out all the ravens with this news.

They’re not the only ones to make it back to Castle Black; Ygritte finds Jon washing his wounds. He tells her he loves her, but he has to go home, and says he knows she won’t hurt him. That bit turns out to be wrong since she shoots him with arrows three times, though Jon still manages to ride back to the castle where he is greeted by Sam and Pyp.

Down at Dragonstone, Davos struggles with Gendry as a prisoner. The two talk, and Davos reveals that he too was lowborn and from Flea Bottom. Later, Davos reads through Stannis’s mail having made great strides in his literacy. He comes across Maester Aemon’s letter and is shocked. However, the news arrives that Robb has died, which means Stannis wants to sacrifice Gendry, since they now have a sign that the leech magic worked. Davos tries to argue against it, but it’s hopeless.

Davos instead breaks Gendry out and sneaks him into a rowboat, giving him guidance on how to get back to King’s Landing. When it’s discovered that Gendry is missing, Davos is correctly accused by Stannis and Melisandre. He’s sentenced to die, but Davos quickly pulls out Aemon’s letter and tells Stannis the real fight is to the north. Melisandre agrees with him, and tells Stannis that Davos has a part to play still.

Finally, in Yunkai, the now freed slaves come outside their gates to meet Danaerys. Her Unsullied guards are wary, but when the freedmen begin calling out “Mhysa” to her (meaning “Mother”), she realizes that no one will hurt her. She leaves the protection of her Unsullied to walk among the Yunkish.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: I’m really not able to type well, because I am still cringing from the crowd surfing scene. And especially knowing the script fully intended for Dany’s whiteness to be the focal point…ugh.

Trying to think about this episode as a whole, there was so much that just straight up annoyed me, but then the numerous Davos and Bran scenes somehow were well-placed enough that I’d calm down. It’s not that they were even that amazingly done (seriously, how would any show-only like Stannis at this point?), but the rest was just…very clearly not the show we began with in Season 1.

Katie: I was happy to get to jump on this rewatch because I always am interested in tenth episodes of Game of Thrones’s seasons. The big climax has just occurred and then there’s so much wrapping up and scene-setting to establish what comes next. They’re so often good barometers of how the show is doing. This one was a roller coaster for me. It reminded me of a lot of the things I genuinely enjoyed about the earlier seasons of the show, but then Sansa would be sidelined, Ramsey would monologue, or oof, that whole last scene.

Julia: All of this episode was mostly a need to set things up for the coming seasons. Sometimes this makes perfect sense, like setting up Stannis going north, but sometimes I was just scratching my head going, “Why are they digging this whole even deeper?”

Okay, that was mostly the scene where Shae rejected those diamonds. Like, did they have a different plan for her at that point? Why?

Highlights/lowlights

Kylie: I actually think my highlight was Walder and Roose talking, since you can clearly see just how odious they are, and also how that chip on Walder’s shoulder came to define a war. Roose was a bit hypocritical with his, “Robb didn’t listen to me ever” and also, “here’s how the situation with my bastard unfolded that Robb sanctioned,” but that’s not exactly an issue since we’re not meant to be convinced by these two. At least I don’t think so.

My lowlight is a very personal annoyance, I know, but Sansa laughing and joking with Tyrion and not knowing the word “shit” was pure sheep shit in and of itself. Also how many times did Arya possibly stick poo in the mattress that Sansa was no doubt sharing with like, Jeyne Poole?

It’s just, come on. I get that the sun rises and sets out of Tyrion’s ass on this show, but can’t his prisoner wife at least be a bit distant to him? You know, her whole thing in the books with her armor of courtesy. The way the show makes it seem, she was well on her way to liking this marriage, and then the death of her family made her sad for a few days (during which will be her escape, since that’s coming in two episodes). So frustrated.

Katie: That’s a good highlight, it’s always nice to see David Bradley cackle his way through his lines. And you know, I actually really considered Sansa laughing and joking with Tyrion as a lowlight too? Not because the scene itself is particularly bad (I’d forgotten how nice it is to see Sansa look happy about something, anything!). But because her emotions in all her scenes this episode are 110% about Tyrion. First to make him look like a great guy, which is par for the course. But it gets even worse later when it turns out that Sansa heard the news of the Red Wedding off screen, and her sadness is not her own, instead is simply given the narrative function of bumming out Tyrion a bit more. It’s a good pick for highlighting all of the generally… bad writings tendencies of the later seasons.

That said, I have to pick the closing Mhysa scene. It’s probably the point when I turned hardest on this show when I originally watched it? It’s such a thematic, narrative, and directorial failure, bad for the story and gross in all its racial implications. There were a lot of bad scenes in this episode, but this was the one that made me most actively angry.

Kylie: Yeah, it’s completely tasteless and the last taste you get of the show for the season. It may actually have been the worst closing shot of any season, now that I think about it.

Katie: My highlight is probably the Small Council scene, before it’s whittled down to Tyrion and Tywin? I’ve always liked the dynamic of more competent people having to deal with Joffrey’s kingship and deciding whether to be deferential or confrontational. It’s also a scene that’s not overly talky, and lets the (good) acting speak for itself. Honestly, though, I probably just enjoy seeing Charles Dance belittle Jack Gleeson. Honorable mention to Davos and Shireen hanging out and reading together, because it was very sweet.

Julia: Jack Gleeson is such an easy highlight to pick. He was just so happy and bouncy. And it helped that it was more or less just a book scene acted excellently. But I’m going to take your honorable mention and turn it into my highlight. Remember when Davos actually did stuff? Remember Shireen’s School for Conveniently Placed Illiterates? I used to love both these characters so much, and they have such great chemistry together. So even though this scene triggered a spiral where I was thinking what the Westerosi equivalent of Dutch speaking printers that would result in there being a “g” in “night” would be, or if they even have standardized orthography in Westeros, and what a trick that would be without printing, and if the maesters as an institution would be enough of a centralizing force to have standard orthography make sense…. I still really liked it.

I honestly think the “pork sausage” scene is not only a lowlight of the episode, it might be a lowlight for the whole series, even given all the stuff they’re going to do later. It was just so long and so… Am I going insane, or did they play it for laughs? Maybe they were going for some kind of Deadpool-esque black humor, but whatever Ramsay dangling a sausage was supposed to be, it wasn’t funny.

Katie: It’s so bad! I think they are playing it for laughs, at least kind of? Ramsay’s whole shtick seems to be “he’s so evil and so wacky! Isn’t it crazy?!” The cavernous abyss between the obvious delight D&D have in writing Ramsay and the terrible way it plays out on the screen and drags down the story is a… not great sign of things to come.

Kylie: Also speaking of what’s to come, Ramsay and eating becomes like, a thing, sort of similar to Brad Pitt’s character in Ocean’s 11. I guess it’s because they found this sausage scene suitably off-putting or something? But it leads to a full-on dramatic moment of Roose telling him to stop eating in Season 5.

Quality of writing

Katie: It is the lowest of low-hanging fruit, but can we talk about the Ramsay-Theon scene for a sec? The first shot of Theon in this episode is just a lingering shot on his crotch. We have an endless Ramsey monologue as he eats a pork sausage (get it?), and then Theon gets punched in the face a lot and cries. This show, guys. “Do eunuchs have a phantom cock?”

Julia: Yeah, the dialogue is cringy, but in terms of writing, the bigger question is why this scene, or this plotline even exists. GRRM puts a lot of disturbing stuff on the page (far too much according to many people) and even he chose to leave most of this stuff as implication. Perhaps they should have asked themselves why that was.

Kylie: I guess just so we could see the “transformation” into Reek more clearly? Like, they wanted him to be called ‘Reek’, but didn’t think that would track. Why they left the nickname in is beyond me, since they cut out Ramsay posing as Reek, and all that rather confusing backstory that came with it.

Even if they felt like we couldn’t have understood how broken Theon was without showing at least some torture, we certainly could have gotten by with half as many scenes, and none needed to be quite so explicit or drawn out. This one in particular was endless.

While we’re talking about the sausage though, I actually liked the dialogue given to Balon when he reacts to all of this. It was very on-point for the Iron Islands attitudes.

Katie: It was also undercut a bit by the fact that it makes the adoption of Reek seem kind of arbitrary rather than an eventual outcome of Theon’s torture. Theon’s obviously not in a great place at the start of this scene, but there’s not much of an indication that he’s really lost his sense of self. He seems eager to hold onto his name when he first gets hit in the face. Because of that, the fact that he takes up the name at the end seems less like a culmination of a character arc than an admission that he’ll do what Ramsey says if he gets punched sufficiently.

Agreed about the Balon dialogue. I also didn’t mind Cersei’s mom monologue (momologue! oh, gross, I’m sorry).

Julia: Like Walder Frey’s obnoxious misogyny last week, Balon’s horribleness felt like it was actual there to serve the world and the characters. I’m not sure why Ramsay’s antics feel so different, especially from Frey’s stuff. Maybe it’s just the absurdity of the sausage wagging.

Kylie: They just feel very out of place. The dialogue doesn’t sound like anything that’d be in ASOIAF, and I don’t just mean because of some strange anachronisms, like talking about “phantom limbs.” No way Westerosi would have coined that term.

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Katie: Tough to pick a theme in an episode that had roughly 36,000 plot lines happening at the same time. The closest I could come to was the emphasis on tension between valuing the Family Name and valuing family members themselves. The clearest example is Tywin’s long speech to Tyrion about how he wanted to kill him as a baby but HE WAS A LANNISTER so he kept him around, but it’s also evident in Balon’s indifference to Theon once he’s a family liability (and Yara’s pushback). I suppose it works with Stannis and Gendry as well, with Davos playing the Yara figure. If we want to be kind and stretch this theme to its breaking point, we could also include the Davos/Gendry scene about Flea Bottom, and the Shae/Varys scene, both of which demonstrate how those without a family name often have to play by different rules. That still leaves out most of the episode?

Julia: That’s an excellent effort. There’s something there maybe about obligations. Like, Jon has one to the Night’s Watch, and Tywin had an obligation to not kill his own child, (the cross he bears is heavy) and Guest Right is an obligation, but that just seems like a less insightful version of what Katie said.

Title? Dany is a mother to all the freedmen, and motherhood is also what Carol’s content is about. And the Rat Cook is a parent too…it’s totes a theme.

Kylie: Gilly is a mother to the baby she just named Sam! Honestly, the title is feeling pretty peripheral to me.

Katie gets full marks though, for sure. The three Stark kids kinda have a mutual loss of innocence (not than any of them are fully innocent at this point, of course). Sansa learns about her family’s fate, Arya kills her first man, and Bran heads north of The Wall. That one is kinda weaker, but given this is a season that ends in the middle of a book, it’s more of a parallel with them than I’d have expected.

The Butterfly Effect (cracks in the plaster)

Kylie: I don’t want to keep harping on the Sansa/Tyrion scene, but I think this is one of the clearest butterfly effects at play. Tyrion is made a really, really, really nice guy who the audience loves, so any character we are meant to like must love him too. In this case, Sansa. So take the whitewashing of his character that’s been there from the start, and two seasons later his prisoner child-bride is joking around with him, and Varys tries to set Shae up for life across the Narrow Sea, because Tyrion is apparently the only man who can save Westeros and he needs to be less distracted.

Katie: Agreed. I was shocked at how openly Sansa was used as an emotional prop in this episode.

Julia: Ugh, I feel like I can rant about Saint Tyrion for hours. In fact, I’m quite sure I have. I would argue that the changes to Tyrion’s character have the most butterfly effect of any decision in the show, maybe more than the decision to age up the kids, or the one to take out most of the supernatural elements. Tyrion’s characters flaws in the book drive the plot quite a bit, after all. And make his actions make any kind of sense.

At this point, I think many intelligent show-only watchers would be surprised to learn that Sansa is a POV character in her own right. And that Shae isn’t.

Katie: Also, this is a very small detail, and nit-picky, but I think it illustrated well the problems the show increasingly ran into down the line. I am not at all a fan of the choice to open the episode with… the mass slaughter of Northern extras. It’s supposed to serve as a carry-over from the climax of last episode, I suppose. But the reason The Red Wedding works as an emotional gut-punch is because it’s so intimate. It’s a shockingly and terribly personal moment.

As y’all noted last week, it’s a climax the show keeps trying to recapture, and it keeps trying… badly. In large part because it keeps aiming for grand scale over the emotional horror of individual moments. Michelle Fairley did such a good job of selling those last few seconds of emotion in The Red Wedding. Opening this episode with anonymous extras screaming and dying is literal overkill: it takes what should be the center of the scene—Arya seeing Wolf-Headed-Robb—and confuses and muddles it. Rather than a clear, stark (sorry), emotional moment, we get a frenetic, busy, overly-complicated scene. Clean it up! Bombast isn’t always best. It’s not a big deal, really, but it’s a wasted opportunity, and so indicative of what the show is going to prioritize as it goes along.

Julia: At least it gives the aforementioned hypothetical intelligent show-only watcher the tools to call bull on Tywin’s later line about all he did was kill a few dozen men at dinner, and what’s so wrong about that?

Kylie: True, though I’ll agree it was very visually busy. There’s that shot of Roose that opens it, and the way he walked to look out reminds me exactly of this one shot in Return of the King with an orc charging into battle. It was a wonky way to open things (also it was pretty damn dark), and given the effectiveness of the Walder and Roose scene later, I don’t think it’s a very necessary one.

Worth noting something that’s about to turn into a butterfly effect: the Night’s Watch vows. Sam found the “loophole” to make a case for Gilly staying (a compelling one at that). Next season we get the sex loophole, and I feel like we had one more at that too. Maybe the implicit loophole that allowed Jon to quit? It’s also symptomatic of D&D chasing a good thing, or something that lands. This is still pre-chicken joke GoT, remember.

Remember adaptation?

Julia: Well, this section is getting harder and harder.

Um. Gendry fits rather seamlessly into Edric Storm’s role in this episode. Minus the way he bonded with Davos, I guess. They bonded in both cases, but not in the same way.

The small council scene about the Red Wedding was pretty good, at least until it became about how awesome Tyrion is for not raping a 14-year-old, but other than that the stuff from KL was not super faithful.

Kylie: Not at all. Though let’s chat about the adaptational decision with Yara. Is it that D&D just don’t plan more than one year at a time? Because I don’t think it’s about them feeling like we needed to check in with her and trying to come up with a great Season 4 plot for her specifically; we didn’t check in on the Iron Islands at all this year, and there’s nothing that necessitates putting the theater in next year either.

Even if they did plan, does that mean they purposely set up Yara for a completely futile, one-off failed mission? Because god knows they wanted Theon to be in his ADWD plotline, no matter what woman gets shoved into Jeyne’s role… I guess I’m just not getting what they were even trying for with this. False hope of Theon’s rescue?

Katie: Such big chunks of these finales focus on laying the groundwork for future plots. But in practice I think that sometimes bleeds over into just… setting up potential drama or tension? It wouldn’t surprise me if they just wanted another rousing (“rousing”) speech or set up for potential action next year, regardless of whether it would matter at all in the long run. The more generous part of me wants to say that there was some level of awareness that the Theon/Ramsey scenes were floundering and needed the (false) promise of some kind of narrative development before the end of the season.

Julia: In retrospect, though, it does seem cruel of them to set Yara up like that. As cruel as setting Shae up like that was. I think being even more generous is presuming that they had different plans for both these characters—they wanted Shae in particular to do something different during the trial and for Yara to maybe do something like her book plot with Stannis maybe–but audience reaction, or budget, or lack of writing skills made it impossible?

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: This is the most Carol Carol who Carol’d all the way to Carolville in her Carolmobile.

Katie: She reminded me of a mom who has been to so many grinding, exhausting parent-teacher conferences about her terrible kid. She knows the teacher is right, but she has to keep her game-face on? She’s just trying her best.

Julia: Imagine another hypothetical intelligent person, who only ever sees this episode of GoT, being told that Carol is supposed to be the villain.

Also, what on earth was that sleeveless number she was wearing in the last scene? And why was she looking at a seashell of some kind and smiling sadly?

Kylie: She was smiling sadly at seashells. She and Jaime used to sell seashells down by the seashore, or something. I feel like I remember that context being explained to us (was that something they talked about in the pilot?) but damn if I remember.

Julia: They talked about jumping off a cliff once.

Why was her scene with Tyrion even there? Like I say, it’s an odd thing to do with someone who’s supposed to be a villain. Was it all just so Tyrion can seem like a nice guy for not wanting to impregnate Sansa?

Kylie: Or to make it clear that once Cersei’s kids are gone, there goes the only good piece of her. Yay! Either way, there’s no debate this week:

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Kylie: Tywin’s exposition seemed good, albeit horrifying. I guess Bran is technically expositing with the rat cook, too, though that’s really just telling a fairy tale. I don’t know, the things that jumped out to me as clunky in this episode were not exposition in nature.

Julia: What, talking about phantom cocks was not exposition? Maybe Ramsay should have asked a cock merchant, I’m sure they would know all about that.

Feel free to be annoyed at me, but the way Tywin said, “I raised you as my son, because you are a Lannister,” to Tyrion probably gave a lot of fuel to the Tyrion the Secret Targ folks.

Kylie: That was also following him saying “since I cannot prove you’re not my son” in another episode this season too, I think. Maybe Charles Dance is a Tyrion truther.

How was the pacing?

Julia: D&D seem to have more trouble with pacing within scenes even than the pacing of episodes.

Kylie: I’d agree with that. The entire episode stops dead at the sausage waving, and frankly Davos and Gendry’s conversation didn’t exactly get to a point.

Overall the episode just struggled from that spottiness we’ve been seeing all season. I can’t tell if it’s better or worse that they were trying to give so many characters a stopping point. Often jumping around helps break things up, but it sure didn’t feel like that this time.

Another week of no sex, baby

Katie: You know, given the number of scenes where people tell Tyrion to have sex with Sansa, maybe “no sex, (no) baby” is the theme.

Kylie: And now his watch begins, after all. He hasn’t seemed to be getting it with Shae either, now that I think about it. I guess she’s struggling with her maybe!jealousy still over Sansa?

Julia: No, no Kylie, she’s outraged that people would dare treat Sansa this way, since she loves that girl so much and would kill for her.

Kylie: Until she decides that whatever, let’s just implicate Sansa in a bunch of crimes. I can’t believe we have another season of Shae…

In memoriam…those Frey soldiers

Katie: In memoriam of the last time Arya’s character arc was interesting! Sorry.

Kylie: Ain’t it the truth. We’re about to get a full season of her and Sandor doing nothing, and talking about how nothing is nothing, and frankly that’s a highlight compared to Braavos and her arc quite literally iterating. Though…Arya in Season 7 was not boring. Many other things, but that’s one charge she gets away from.

Is this where we should talk about her kills in the book getting thrown in at random times and in random contexts?

Julia: I remember there being a chart.

This season’s been fun. I think I get people still having patience with this show after this, but in retrospect, it’s so totally off the rails already.

And I just remembered, the Pornish are coming soon!

Kylie: OH MY GOD.

Well, for us at least, the Pornish won’t be coming until 2019. We will have the Season 3 rewatch podcast out to you in the next couple of weeks, and then Season 4’s rewatch will start January 8th.

Thank you all for following along this season. We’re curious to know what you thought of this episode specifically, though. Did D&D leave a tantalizing endpoint, or are things just sloppy to the point of distraction? Let’s discuss that below, and we wish you both a happy new year and good fortune in The Wars to Come.


Images courtesy of HBO

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